If you have multiple children, especially twins, being in quarantine can feel even more endless. The days run together, the arguments are never-ending, it seems like we all are losing our minds. Hopefully, that’s not just me…
In our 1,500 square foot house, we have an 8-year-old daughter, 6-year-old son, and 4-year-old boy/girl twins. It’s a lot of togetherness, let me tell you. Week 1 was a nice break from life with lots of puzzles and book reading snuggles. Week 2 we had beautiful weather in the Midwest with tons of outside time, new chalk and bubbles, pulling the bikes out after a long winter, and daily family walks.
Week 3 got REAL! When will this end? Will my kids hate each other when this is all finished? Can this extroverted mother handle this isolation with my husband still working 50+ hours a week? Something had to change! We needed some type of routine that would help us build up our relationships with each other during this time, not break them down.
So a couple of weeks ago I pulled out an idea that I had implemented with my oldest two children when my twins were newborns. We had moved away from this in recent years, and once I put it into effect again, it was a game changer in our house: Separate rest times in separate rooms.
Recently my twins gave up their naps just about the same time that this quarantine began (of course). Watching a movie worked initially, but their lack of sleep over stimulated them with TV in place of a nap, and it made for a nightmare of an evening. I realized that as much as I need a break from my kids every afternoon, they need a break from each other. They share rooms, toys, everything! It’s a lot of togetherness in a small house, with no socializing and outside interaction. Even on their best days, they need a chance to truly have a quiet time.
I realized that it’s important for my kids to learn how to entertain themselves without a playmate, to learn how to obediently settle down to allow their bodies to rest, and to give them a chance to read or be creative in their drawing and playing. Every day, each child is assigned a different room in the house. I had to get creative in tight quarters, but we make it work! One child in the living room, two in separate bedrooms, and one in the office.
They each have their own personal basket that they can collect “quiet activities” in during the day in preparation for this time. Items include books, coloring pages with a small baggie of crayons, doll with a brush and hair bows, Matchbox cars, Transformers, Duplo Legos, lacing toys, small puzzles, etc. I do not allow electronics during this time. Don’t get me wrong, my kids love tablets and TV and there is definitely a place for them in our day, but during this time I wanted my kids to give their bodies and minds a chance to rest.
You can encourage your children to pick anything that’s quiet and interests them to put in their basket. If they have some ownership over what goes in and the items can change daily, they will be more on board and less defiant with this routine.
Now it takes some time to build stamina with this rest time. At first they took it as a punishment, saying things like, “I have to stay in time out for how long?” “Why can’t I play my tablet?” “But we always watch a movie!” “Why can’t I play with my sister? We’ll be nice, I promise!” And so on…
I started out the timer at 35 minutes and have slowly added 5 minutes every few days. After 2 weeks, we are up to 1 hour and 10 minutes, with my daily goal being 1.5 hours. I haven’t made any big announcements on adding time every few days, I just slyly added minutes without them even realizing most days. I’ve even found that some days the timer will go off and they keep working on their activity.
Through this daily quiet time I’ve noticed great improvements in my 6-year-old’s reading. Without the pressure of Mom hovering over his shoulder while he does his schoolwork, he has become more confident in how much he can actually read when he’s doing it quietly on his own with his choice of books.
My four-year-old son has built the most amazing Lego creations when he doesn’t have his destructive twin sister bulldozing his every design. My four-year-old twin daughter has amazed me with her drawings lately. When she is forced to slow down and isn’t wound up by her crazy older brother, she can focus for way longer than I’ve ever seen before with her.
My eight year-old daughter is journaling about this quarantine and I’m amazed at her insight, compassion, and understanding during this crisis. I know this journal will be something she looks back at often in her life as she remembers this unique time. After the timer goes off, they can choose a show to watch together while I cook dinner. Nothing wrong with dangling a carrot to accomplish some MUCH needed quiet time!
I’ve looked forward to witnessing their individual growth and have been able to see their strengths more clearly during this daily routine. Not only does Mom get a break, but the kids actually have a chance to miss each other! It hasn’t eliminated sibling arguments of course, but I will say that they are much more cooperative and kind in the evening when they’ve had this daily break from each other. This separate rest time has become a necessity in our home. It’s made for a more peaceful evening when my husband gets home from work and energizes all of us during these long, seemingly endless days at home.
This is such an unprecedented and unique crisis we are living in right now. There is nothing in our lifetimes that we can compare it to and no one we can glean wisdom from. There’s no “How To” book and we are all just trying our best to come out of it whole. We are all in this pandemic together and I hope that we can come out of it stronger and better because of this time at home with our families. And if lives are saved because we stayed home then it will all be worth it.
Carly Cory and her husband Devon live in Indianapolis with their four children, Addie age 8, Maddox age 6 and Patrick and Penelope, their 4 year-old twins. Carly is a former elementary teacher, turned stay-at-home mom, and loves being the ring leader in her entertaining circus of a home!